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updated: 12/9/2013 8:59 PM

Bulls' Hinrich staying in the game

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  • Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich has stayed healthy this season, which has been vital with limited options to replace him.

      Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich has stayed healthy this season, which has been vital with limited options to replace him.
    Associated Press

 
 

Kirk Hinrich was the last player to leave the practice court Monday at the Berto Center. He's coming off a 1-for-10 shooting night in Saturday's loss to Detroit, so it was a good time for extra work.

While the Bulls wait to see when Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, Mike James and, eventually, Derrick Rose will return to the lineup, Hinrich has been a steady influence in an uneven season.

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Considering Rose is out with another knee surgery and Nate Robinson is now a Denver Nugget, Hinrich might qualify as the most indispensable Bull right now. With lineups changing virtually every night due to injuries, a veteran point guard can help hold things together.

"It's challenging. I think we've handled it OK," Hinrich said of the unstable lineup. "It happens in this game. The season, it's a long grind. There's going to be guys getting hurt. Every team deals with it. You just try to deal with it the best you can."

Last season Hinrich played in 64 of a possible 94 games, including playoffs. While missing time with a variety of injuries, his longest run of consecutive games played was 20. That streak ended after he played 60 minutes in a triple-overtime victory over Brooklyn in Game 4 of the playoffs. He missed the rest of the postseason with a calf injury.

Heading into Tuesday's home date against Milwaukee, Hinrich has played in all 18 games, including 53 minutes in the 3-OT loss to New Orleans last week. Keeping the participation streak alive will be important if the Bulls want to maximize their success without Rose.

"That was one of the biggest keys for me coming into the season was staying healthy," he said. "It's still early. Knock on wood, things have gone pretty good so far."

When he returned to the Bulls in 2012, Hinrich was coming off a shortened season due to shoulder surgery. He was hoping last year would be healthier, but it didn't quite work out.

"I tried to do as much as I could (last summer) and felt like I was listening to the right people as far as doing things for my body," he said. "It might not have been as much of a pound-it-out, real high-intensity summer.

"More of a keep feeling good on the court and in the weight room; doing all my stretching and stuff like that. I try. Last year I felt like I was well-prepared and I had a bunch of freak injuries, A lot of it is just luck."

In eight games as the starting point guard this season, Hinrich is averaging 9.5 points and 5.8 assists in 36.8 minutes. He's shooting just 34 percent in those games, and 27 percent from 3-point range. But then he hit 3 of 4 shots from 3-point land against Miami last week, so maybe more reps will get the percentages up.

The Bulls may again be without three starters Tuesday against the Bucks. But coach Tom Thibodeau made another case for putting everything they can into every day.

"You could use the excuse that you've got three starters out," Thibodeau said. "That being said, we could have won that game against Detroit. You could say Taj (Gibson) was playing out of position. When Taj was out of position, our team actually played very well. We know we're capable of playing better than we did.

"We have a lot of toughness. We know we have some moving parts right now. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We've got to keep grinding, get ready for the next one. I like the spirit of our team."

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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